It is nearly impossible to mimic or reach the stardom level that Shohei Ohtani has reached at this point in his MLB career. I’ve almost never seen anything like the type of attention that he garners from everyone in the baseball world. The media praises him, the fans love him, and baseball is lucky to have him.
The only thing comparable to the amount of coverage he has received this year would be the attention that was given to Patrick Mahomes in his first season as the Kansas City Chiefs starter a few years ago.
In that season, Mahomes won the NFL MVP, something that Ohtani will likely replicate given the tremendous production that he gave the Los Angeles Angels during the first half of the baseball season.
This week’s All-Star game was all about Shohei and his impressive two-way style of play that has made him a must-watch for all fans of sports and the MLB.
Ohtani was knocked out in the first round of an amazing Home Run Derby versus Juan Soto, and in the All-Star game, he only pitched one scoreless inning and went 0-2 from the plate, yet the spotlight belonged to him the whole weekend.
If fans happened to tune in to the All-Star festivities that were televised on ESPN, their eyes would have been glued to Ohtani for nearly 8 total hours combined through Monday and Tuesday. He was the talk of every conversation, even managing to make his name a hot topic in other player interviews, with many players being asked what it’s like to face a guy like Ohtani, or better yet, play with him.
The American League won Tuesday night’s All-Star Game, 5-2, and Ohtani, who started the game for the AL, was still on the mound when they took the lead, therefore becoming the first player in major league history to compete in the Home Run Derby and earn a win in the All-Star Game the next day. He also became the first leadoff man to throw a 100-mph fastball in the All-Star Game, and He was the first Japanese player to compete in the derby.
The 27-year-old Los Angeles star brought new energy and feeling to this all-star weekend all by just being there. He’s the kind of player who is meant to play baseball, and the MLB never knew it needed someone like him until he arrived.
For Ohtani, this All-Star break could have been a much-needed break for someone who both pitches and bats from the plate, but instead, he gave the fans and the MLB a show and gave them the star they were anticipating to see.
MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said this about Ohtani:
“I literally can’t say another word that hasn’t been said or written about what Shohei Ohtani has done. It kind of speaks for itself.”
Season by the Numbers
His numbers from the first half of the season help explain why the hype is real and backs the reasoning for the intense attention he receives.
Ohtani leads the majors in homers at the all-star break with 33 and is the first player in major league history to hit 30 homers and steal at least 12 bases before the Midsummer Classic in July. Only seven total players in the long and storied history of the MLB have hit more than his 33 homers in the first half of the season.
His other numbers from the plate include a batting average of .279 and an astounding slugging percentage of .698 with a total of 70 RBIs. And Ohtani is doing all that while pitching a solid 3.49 ERA from the mound.
In 13 starts this season, Ohtani has amassed 67 innings pitched for the Los Angeles Angels. He has tallied 87 strikeouts in that time and a 1.209 WHIP that is good enough for the top 40 in the MLB.
While Top 40 would normally not be seen as an amazing accomplishment, for Ohtani, it is beyond impressive given his pedigree at both pitching and hitting the baseball.
Shohei Ohtani’s Influence
We have not seen a player in nearly a decade be able to do what Ohtani does on a weekly basis. Being able to pitch 100 mph fastballs in a start for the Angels on a Monday and then hit two home runs in a game the next day from the DH position is something we haven’t seen since Babe Ruth in the early years of the MLB.
Ohtani’s success is such a huge deal to the country of Japan that they broadcast every Angels game in all parts of Japan, and that broadcast is outfitted with an exclusive Ohtani cam that keeps an eye on Ohtani at all times of the game.
Ohtani’s rise to superstardom and his recognition as an All-Star has dominated sports headlines this season, especially over the last few days, for both positive and controversial reasons.
Despite certain comments that were made by sports media in the last few days, he appears to have the personality and flair that will help the MLB grow and reach new heights.
While he needs a translator to perform interviews, I would argue that is part of his appeal. Internationality and diversity are becoming a huge focus of all major sports leagues and the world in general, and Ohtani is a great activist and leader to have paved the way.
Other Japanese-born players like Ohtani have thrived in MLB and helped grow the league internationally over the years in the MLB. Ichiro Suzuki, Masahiro Tanaka, Hideo Nomo, and the Yankees’ Hideki Matsui have all done their part to increase visibility for Japanese talent.
While a lot of them did good off the field, many of them tended to devalue off-the-field branding that could have helped them in attracting more fans to the sport. With Ohtani’s two-way style of play and the fact that he is a Japanese-born player in the MLB, there are so many avenues for promoters and marketers to take advantage of.
For Ohtani, the attention has come to him in an instant, and he has risen to the challenge of taking on the responsibility of being baseball’s golden child.
Ohtani is currently baseball’s biggest attraction, and they want the ride to stay open for as long as possible. Or, as they say, it’s Sho-time!
The MLB has finished transforming him into the superstar he is, and he will be joined by some of the new faces of the league like San Diego Padres star Fernando Tatis Jr., who has become the new face of the National League with his big way of life and flashy persona.